Oak Park Makes Up for Lost Time with Another Championship

By Steve Vedder
Special for MHSAA.com

June 5, 2021

KENTWOOD – Nonah Waldron has run in all kinds of challenging conditions, but nothing like this.

The Oak Park sophomore pushed aside tough headwinds which all runners struggled with to win a pair of events at Saturday's Lower Peninsula Division 1 Girls Track & Field Finals at East Kentwood.

Waldron said she's run in heat, freezing cold and soaking rain, but never has she met up with the strong winds that buffeted Falcons Stadium. The conditions didn't seem to detract from the results, however, as she swept to victories the 100 hurdles (13.72) and 300 hurdles (43.17). The 100 hurdles time was seventh-best in state history.

"I fought them the whole races," Waldron said of the wind. "It was more mental than physical. My mind was where it was supposed to be – focused and believing in myself. But it was harder, a challenge."

Waldron said the wind wasn't going to keep her from success.

"It was definitely my goal," she said of winning twice. "I ran a 13.4 at nationals in Oregon, so I knew I had a chance."

Birmingham Seaholm trackWaldron helped Oak Park to the team championship with 86 points. Detroit Renaissance was runner-up with 62 points, and Ann Arbor Huron third with 45.

Oak Park coach Brandon Jiles said his team has been eyeing Saturday’s championship for months. Last season was canceled due to COVID-19, but Saturday’s win ran Oak Park’s title streak to three and six over the last seven seasons.

"Excellence is part of our tradition, and the kids work hard. We put a lot of work into this," he said. "We battled through adversity and made up for missing last year. We've been tough and resilient, and I think that improved our chances this year."

While the conditions were rugged for all runners, Birmingham Seaholm senior Audrey DaDamio had a fantastic meet in winning the 800 (2:11.95), 1,600 (4:44.38) and 3,200 (10:22.11). She now owns school records in the 1,600 and 3,200 and is second in the 800.

DaDamio, headed to Stanford this fall, said a clean sweep of all three events has been a goal since a successful  indoor season.

"It's been something I've been looking to do all season. I thought, 'Why not?'" she said. "My season has had some ups and downs since I came off the indoor season (and indoor state record) which blew my mind. But I didn't feel like I have been able to showcase my talent in some races (this spring). That's been tough."

DaDamio said she felt strong after the 1,600 and despite temperatures in the high 80s, winning two more events seemed possible.

"I thought the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward," she said. "If I lead in a race, fine. If not, I just relax. I had confidence."

Kaila Jackson of Detroit Renaissance was also a double winner, capturing the 100 (11.70) and 200 (24.01). Jackson said she doesn't necessarily have an opinion as to which race is stronger for her.

Oak Park track"They are pretty much the same," she said. "The wind held me back, but you've still got to be out there pumping your arms. Considering the wind, times weren't as fast, but it was still tough. I train hard in both events and I'm pretty strong. It's a challenge.

"I thought I had a chance because I've trained so hard. I looked at the times and thought I could do well."

Among the other winners were Lincoln Park's Karrington Gordon, who won the high jump in 5-7. Gordon, who will play basketball next season at Central Michigan, was only a ninth seed in the high jump – which she said prompted extra effort.

"I wanted to prove them wrong," she said. "I did 5-7 and a quarter three weeks ago, so I knew I wasn't far off. I knew there was good competition, and I knew I had to be ready."

Among the other individual champions were Traverse City's Leah Doezema in the discus (145-4), Sophia Mettes of Dexter in the pole vault (12-6), Opal Jackson of Macomb L'Anse Creuse North in the shot put (47-3), Alaina Diaz of Hudsonville in the long jump (19-9) and Jada Roundtree of Oak Park in the 400 (55.13).

Among the relays, Renaissance won the  800 (1:36.99) and the 400 (45.56) while Ann Arbor Pioneer won the 3,200 (9:09.43) and Oak Park the 1,600 (3:46.63).

Click for full results.

PHOTOS: (Top) Oak Park, led by double winner Nonah Waldron (far right) dominated both hurdles races Saturday at East Kentwood. (Middle) Birmingham Seaholm’s Audrey DaDamio celebrates one of her three championships. (Below) Oak Park climbs the champion’s podium for the third straight season. (Action photos by Ike Lea; team photos by John Brabbs/RunMichigan.com.)   

Multi-Sprint Champ Racing to Finish Huron Career Ahead of the Rest Again

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

May 25, 2023

NEW BOSTON – If there was one thing Elizabeth Anderson took pride in elementary school, it was simply showing that she could outrun everyone in sight. 

Greater DetroitIn fact, Anderson has an explanation for all the success she had in those playground races.

“Dominance when you are in elementary school,” Anderson quipped. “I don’t think I ever had a nickname. I just think everyone knew I was fast.”

Years later, pretty much everyone who follows track & field in the state of Michigan can attest to that. 

A senior for New Boston Huron, Anderson has been faster than most other competitors in the state during her three-year high school career (with her freshman season in 2020 canceled due to COVID-19). 

Last year, Anderson won titles at the Lower Peninsula Division 2 Finals in the 200-meter (25.07) and 400-meter (56.28) dashes, and was runner-up in the 100-meter dash (12.23). 

Often, top sprinters focus on one or two of those three races. But Anderson is certainly a different breed of sprinter because she does all three.

In fact, she holds school records in all three of those events, and if all that weren’t enough, Anderson is a part of all three sprint relay teams. 

“It is hard to give her events off,” said New Boston Huron head girls track coach Danielle Lobato.

Despite the different styles the 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes present, Anderson said there usually isn’t much adjusting when she goes from one of those races to another.

Anderson, middle, outpaces the field to also win the 200.The strategy is simply, “Let’s beat the other girls to the finish line.”

“I don’t really go into each race changing up how I would run,” she said. 

While enjoying and succeeding in all three races, Anderson said she actually does have a favorite among them.

“I would say the 400 is probably my favorite,” she said. “Even though it hurts, it’s satisfying to see how much you can get your time down in the 400 compared to any other race.”

Anderson said she started running track in sixth grade, but really got serious about it during the summer after her sophomore season, when she was invited to run for a local club. 

Eventually, that led to her competing over the winter in indoor events.

She lived and breathed track so much that last fall, she decided to not run cross country so she could focus on a weightlifting regimen aimed at developing more leg strength.

“Once I started doing summer track, I realized I wanted to be doing this all the time,” she said. 

Lobato said oftentimes in practice, Anderson is a de facto coach, given there is no better person she can think of for the younger runners on the team to learn from.

“I can’t always demonstrate these things I’m trying to teach,” she said. “You get to see it in real life (from Anderson), not in a YouTube video.”

After winning the 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes at her Regional meet last week, Anderson has her sights set on achieving the same trifecta of titles at next Saturday’s Finals in Grand Rapids. 

Anderson has signed to run track at Michigan State, but has been plenty motivated to keep producing this spring in her final high school season.

“I’m really looking to defend my titles,” she said. “That is what is really motivating me to keep going. I want to keep in shape for the college season. I don’t want to lose any of the progress I have made. Ultimately, I just love running track.”

And since elementary school, Anderson has loved — and succeeded in — outrunning everyone else to the finish line. 

“We knew we were getting something special,” Lobato said of when Anderson arrived in high school. “But you never expect this. All that she has accomplished is amazing.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTOS (Top) New Boston Huron's Elizabeth Anderson clears the finish line during last season's LPD2 400 race. (Middle) Anderson, middle, outpaces the field to also win the 200. (Click for more from RunMichigan.com.)